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Bandits look to continue winning ways in visit with Sea Bears

DJ Steward Vancouver Bandits DJ Steward - CEBL

The Vancouver Bandits – winners of three straight – hit the road to take on the Winnipeg Sea Bears from the Canada Life Centre on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

The game will be available for streaming LIVE in a limited-time free preview of TSN+.

It’ll be the third of four matchups between Vancouver and Winnipeg this season, with the Sea Bears currently holding the advantage having won both of those previous games.

Despite the series being 2-0 in favour of Winnipeg, the games were tightly contested and could’ve gone either way. Both contests had to be decided in the final moments of each game and ended with an average margin of just four points separating the two clubs.

A common theme in those two games was the turnover battle. The Sea Bears committed an average of 6.5 less turnovers than the Bandits while also forcing an average of 13.5 in the process. Working off of that, Winnipeg finished a +11 on points off turnovers as a result, giving them crucial points in those narrow victories.

Another pattern in those games was the disparity between bench production. Winnipeg’s second unit outscored Vancouver’s by 45 points through those two games, and it was Jelani Watson-Gayle who led the way for the Sea Bears. The guard’s averaging 17 points on 50 per cent shooting against the Bandits while knocking down a combined eight triples along the way.

Look for Waston-Gayle to try and continue his strong set of performances as his team looks to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time this season.

This face-off also has the makings of an intense battle on the glass. Vancouver and Winnipeg are the top two teams in the CEBL when it comes to total rebounds per game. It’s also intriguing to note that much of these teams' success on the boards come from opposite ends. The Bandits rank first when it comes to defensive boards at 35.9, while the Sea Bears are the league’s second-best at grabbing offensive rebounds at 13.8 per game.

If that weren’t enough, this matchup will feature five of the league’s top 10 rebounders, two on the side of Winnipeg in Teddy Allen and Chad Posthumus, and three for the Bandits in Giorgi Bezhanishvili (first), Malcolm Duvivier, and Nick Ward.

Winnipeg enters this game as losers of two of their last three games – most-recently a 97-81 loss to the Western Conference leading Calgary Surge – and now hold a record of 5-3.

There was not much that went right for the Sea Bears in that contest as they shot just 39 per cent from the field and an uncharacteristic 6-21 from deep. The team is in the top-half of the league when it comes to three-point percentage, shooting 34.3 per cent but could not find their stroke in that loss.

The Sea Bears’ leader in Allen put up a respectable 23 points and seven rebounds – but just like his team – he struggled efficiency wise as he shot 8-21 from the field and 1-5 from beyond the arch. Fans of the team should hold optimism in the guard’s ability to bounce back though as he still averages 26.8 points (second) on 42 per cent shooting and nine rebounds (tied-third) per game.

On the other side, Vancouver is in the midst of their best stretch this season. After starting 1-4 the team has pulled out three straight victories, sitting at an even 4-4 record and fourth place in the West. Their most recent win came in a narrow 92-89 victory over the Saskatchewan Rattlers.

Shooting the long-ball well and at a high clip is something that has seemingly played a part in the Bandits recent success. During this win streak the team has knocked down 10+ triples in all three games, most recently against the Rattlers when they made 12 on 40 per cent shooting. On the flip side, they’re 0-3 in games where they fail to knockdown double-digit triples.

Outside of their efficient shooting as a team, it was specifically the guard-forward duo of Shane Gibson and Ward that showed out in that most recent win. Gibson had a break-out performance of sorts in just his second game with the team – after notching just three points in his debut – he put up 21 points and five rebounds on 56 per cent shooting from the field.

Ward notched a game-high 22 points on an efficient 8-12 shooting while also grabbing nine boards. It was the big man’s third 20+ point performance in his team’s last four outings.

As teams near the halfway mark of their campaigns, keep an eye on the seeding implications of each game. If Winnipeg goes on to win this game, they’ll tie things up with Calgary for top spot in the West. Whereas a Vancouver win could see them moving up at least one spot – or even as high as second – and just a game back of first place.